"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chasing Pavements

This Saturday, I'll run my 4th half marathon, the Ogden Marathon. My sister Amy, and good friend Aimee will both be joining me. It will be my second time running this particular race, which is considered one of the best marathons in the country.  

I first started running about 2 1/2 years ago. I'd never been a runner, or had any desire to be one. Running was boring, and it hurt. My two sisters had been running races together for a few years at that point. After being at the finish line cheering them on a couple of times, the running bug bit me. After a couple of months of run/walk workouts building up to jogging a few miles, I confessed to my sisters that I'd started running and wanted to do a race. 

Julie immediately took charge, and before I knew it she'd convinced me that I should do a half marathon. Yep, that's right.  13.1 miles straight out of the gate! Before long, she called to say she'd found the perfect race for the three of us to do together. It was a fast, downhill course through old Colorado mining towns near Vail. That summer was spent training, following the schedule she'd sent me.  All three of us did our long runs early on Sunday mornings. Amy and Julie doing theirs together in Colorado, me running alone in Utah.  We'd text each other just before heading out, giving each other words of encouragement.  Afterwards, we'd immediately text each other with reports of our runs, or we'd have one of our three-way conference calls if we had a lot to share. 

Training alone was hard, and there were many times I wanted to quit early. Many of my runs started out with me listening to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here". I did wish they were there beside me. The mental conditioning part of training was probably the hardest part.  Knowing that I'd be running with my sisters on race day was often the one thing that helped me push through. 

Finally, race day arrived. The night before the three of us stayed in Vail, where Julie was living and working that summer.  That night was sister time at its best.  Lots of laughter, giggling, and talking. The race itself was nothing like I'd expected.  Julie had so pumped up the fact that the course was an "easy, downhill one" that I'd mentally visualized we'd literally be starting at the top of a downhill canyon road, and off we'd go. Imagine my dismay when we lined up for the start facing the wrong way!  I looked at her in confusion, and then realized we'd be running around an entire lake first, then heading down the canyon. Over the next several months, Julie often drove by Georgetown Lake on her way to work. She'd call me saying "Hey, I'm driving by your lake", and we'd both crack up remembering my confusion and disgust that morning.  

Julie, me and Amy
May 15, 2010
Last May, I ran the Ogden 1/2 marathon alone. I'd wanted the three of us to run it together, but registration closed before Amy and Julie could sign up. They promised however, that they'd both be there for me on race day, and would even run the last little bit with me. True to their promise, they were. Amy had ruptured her Achilles tendon several weeks before, so she couldn't run with me at the end.  Julie promised she'd be there, waiting as I came onto the straightaway headed to the finish. When I got to that point, I was exhausted and just wanted to be done.  I looked for Julie and didn't see her and my heart fell. So, I turned up my iPod and kept running. Then, I spotted her out of the corner of my eye. She was running, and laughing, waving frantically to get my attention.  She'd been right where she'd said she'd be, I'd just missed her. We ran those last several blocks together, me cursing and asking if it was over yet, and her cheerfully encouraging me.  Just before the final stretch, she said "I'm outta here. You're doing great, just a few more yards and you're done. I love you sis". 

A few weeks ago on one of my last long training runs, I went down that stretch of road again.  As hard as I tried to not remember, I couldn't help it. I had to Mike how hard this race was going to be for me. He suggested maybe I should run the race for Julie. My angry reaction surprised even me. "Why would I run it for her? She's gone. She chose to leave.  I'm running it for me, and me alone. I'm the one who's trained. I'm the one who's alive and didn't give up!". 

I will be running this race for me, but I'll be running because of Julie. Running is a gift she left me. Sometimes I use it to run away from all the confusion and pain in my mind, staying focused by forcing myself to think of anything but her. Other times, I use it because I miss her and running makes me feel close to her. On Saturday I plan to just run, and remember, not the sadness, but the joy, and all the good times we had together.


  1. I wish there were words that could be even slightly adequate for the pain you are feeling, but there are none. I can only say thank you for putting your feelings here and sharing your tears for your beautiful sister with me. Blessings.

  2. As your mom, I am overcome with both happiness, love, pride and sorrow for all of you as I read this post. You girls have always brought me such joy for so many reasons. My joy has remained, as has my pride, for all of you.

    As I again watched your video of the race, I couldn't help but think how appropriate the song that you selected as background music is for you, Amy and the rest of us. We are still standing. Not only that, but you are still running. You are pressing on in this marathon of life.

    Go for it this Saturday. I won't be there in person, but know that I will be there in spirit. Love to you and Amy as you race. You are over-comers. You are survivors. You are strong. Finish strong, proud, and joyfully. That is my hope for all of you as you put one foot in front of the other in every path of life. XO

  3. Amazing post. I echo how your mom closed her comment.


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